Northwest Fire District

Sprinklers

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Residential Sprinklers

“If a system existed that could do for crime what fire sprinklers have done for fires in the last 100 years, it would be in every home in America as quickly as it could be manufactured.”

COMMON QUESTIONS (and answers)
ABOUT RESIDENTIAL SPRINKLERS

Q. Why am I required to have a sprinkler system?
A. Northwest Fire/Rescue District does not require fire sprinkler systems for dwellings. Sprinklers are simply the most recommended and affordable option in most cases. If you are required to provide fire protection, it is because you have chosen to build in an area that is not equipped with an adequate water supply for your home, or the size of your home creates an additional need for water. Above 3,600 square feet the required water available goes up to 1,500 gallons per minute. Normally, residential water systems are designed for 1,000 gpm. Other factors are applicable too, such as distance from street or hydrant, difficulty of access. Northwest Fire/Rescue District provides well-maintained equipment, and highly trained personnel, but need your help with water supply and early intervention.

Q. Why are residential sprinkler systems so highly recommended?
A. There are several answers. 1. A residential sprinkler system is a life safety system first, with the added bonus of actively protecting property. The intent is to put out a fire while it is still small. 2. The effects of the sprinkler also limit the production of toxic gases. 3. Tie the system into a monitoring company and you will have early reporting even if you’re not home. 4. A sprinkler system begins to work before the fire department arrives, without additional risk to your safety. 5. Sprinklers are quite affordable, if done at the construction stage. Starting at less than $1 per square foot, which may seem expensive. When you consider that a system is being installed made of specialized materials, fully tested and backed for the life of your house; that the system will sit dormant for (we hope) many years and still be expected to work, that really seems like you’re getting a lot for your money.

 

Q. If I have smoke detectors, why do I need a sprinkler system, and vice versa?

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A. These 2 systems are independent of one another with entirely different purposes. The greatest causes of fire deaths are fires that release a great deal of smoke, especially when people are sleeping. More fires than we like are smoke-charged smoldering fires started in some common plastics, and upholstered furniture. These fires can smolder for quite a while without developing enough heat to activate a sprinkler. A smoke detector is designed to provide you an early warning, and only that. On the other hand, a sprinkler system will extinguish or control a fire, even if no one sees it. While not claiming as many lives, active, flaming fires are far more common.

 

Q. Aren’t fire sprinklers those ugly things I see hanging on pipes in warehouses and factories?

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A. Yes, that’s one type, but read on. Highly effective, ugly sprinklers are installed in warehouses and factories, where looks aren’t important, and have been for nearly 200 years. Since that time sprinklers have become required in office spaces, hotels, apartments and other places where aesthetics matter. Great advances have been made in design. Residential options are the most stylish, least obtrusive sprinklers of all, and come in several pleasant looking styles. These include a simple disc on the ceiling that melts away to expose the sprinkler head (the white disc above is all you will see). Most can be ordered in custom colors too

 

Q. Won’t fire sprinklers soak everything in sight, in seconds like on TV?

A. An emphatic NO. Hollywood likes to achieve a dramatic effect by showing a deluge system going off, usually by accident, and soaking everyone instantly. In truth each residential sprinkler head works independently from the others. One sprinkler head controls a vast majority of fires. Another truth is, a residential sprinkler head uses a minimum amount of water to control a fire. Fire sprinklers use all of water’s properties to work, not sheer volume. Residential fire sprinklers use between 8 & 24 gallons per minute, compared to 50 to 125 gpm for the first nozzle brought in by fire fighters. That means that a sprinkler can run between 2 & 15 minutes before equaling the water use of the first minute of a fire-fighting nozzle. During a 10-year study in Scottsdale, AZ, some surprising statistics were discovered. The average amount of water used to extinguish fires was 15 times greater in non-sprinkled homes than in sprinkled residences.

 

Q. Will a fire sprinkler system leak and ruin my belongings?

A. First, there are few statistics of residential sprinklers leaking, and most of those leaks are from freezing temperatures (an experience that doesn’t affect our pipes). Second, many safeguards are present to protect your belongings. Such as:

  1. Materials above the grade of standard plumbing piping and fixtures.
  2. Additional skill levels required of installers. Double the number of inspections over plumbing.
  3. Only in case of a fire does the piping get used, hence no wear and tear.
  4. Any leak in an area where damage can be done will sound an alarm,
  5. and The pipes are no larger than standard plumbing.

 

Q. Are there other advantages for using sprinklers?

A. Yes, the Insurance Services Office (ISO) rates fire departments on effectiveness, which includes the availability of water. In Northwest Fire/Rescue District we have two ratings based on that availability. Our district is a 4 within 1,000 feet of a hydrant, and an 8 if a hydrant is not available (10 is no protection at all, and 8 is about as good as it gets without a water supply). Insurance companies base their premiums on the ratings. However, most insurance companies today also give a 10% – 20% discount for a residential sprinkler system. (The savings will eventually pay for the system.) And you have peace of mind. From the same Scottsdale study, the average dollar loss in fires in sprinklered homes was $1,945.00, while the average for non-sprinklered was $17, 067.00.